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Innovation’s Eastern Accent

With innovative products from Asia stirring up a storm in the international beauty market— think BB creams—all eyes are on the East for the next wave of ideas.

Appeared In
Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 08/09/2013

With innovative products from Asia stirring up a storm in the international beauty market— think BB creams—all eyes are on the East for the next wave of ideas. “Today in Asia, you find new conversations, beauty gestures and packaging that are inspirational to brands and consumers elsewhere,” says Florence Bernardin, founder of specialist consultancy Information & Inspiration. “Western brands are following this very closely.”

This story first appeared in the August 9, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

One of the latest innovations out of South Korea is the “mist cushion,” a liquid foundation with cooling and other properties impregnated into a sponge, offered by brands such as AmorePacific’s Hera. “South Korea has very quickly become a laboratory for innovation. Industry players there are extremely reactive, and production times are very short,” says Bernardin, who notes that BB creams and mist cushions have been real “cash cows.” Such newfangled products have paid off. All three South Korean companies in the Top 100—Able C&C, AmorePacific Corp. and LG Household & Health Care— registered strong double-digit gains in 2012. Although the economic situation in Japan makes it less buoyant overall, there are pockets of growth, with innovation the key driver, according to industry sources.

“Japan is the country of new textures,” Bernardin says, noting the current preponderance of watery textures and all-in-one products that incorporate a lotion, serum, emulsion, makeup base and sun protection.

These include “nomad sprays”–products that can be used throughout the day like Shiseido-owned Ettusais’ Puru Puru Mist, a moisturizer with encapsulated jelly particles intended to be sprayed on any time without ruining makeup.

Ingredients are also a strong trend, with sheep placenta extract reportedly used for its brightening properties in products from companies like Shiseido.

While Western brands may be reluctant to use animal placenta, plant-based versions are filtering onto the market, according to Bernardin.

Beauty products based on traditional herbal remedies are also growing in popularity. AmorePacific’s Sulwhasoo label, for example, which gained traction in the U.S. last year, bases its formulas on sustainably sourced fermented ginseng.